By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Water experts on Monday called for expanding grey water use in the Arab world, as it can help address the region’s acute water shortage and improve the agriculture sector.

Experts and policy makers urged the private sector to invest in the treatment and reuse of grey water – non-industrial wastewater generated from domestic processes such as dishwashing, laundry and bathing – as an alternative source of water, highlighting that although Arab countries have made strides in wastewater reuse over the past two decades, the level of wastewater services still has room for improvement.

The experts made the remarks during the first day of a regional workshop on the reuse of grey water, which was organised by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Water Authority of Jordan Secretary General Fayez Batayneh said the majority of discharged grey water can be recycled using individual treatment units within the homes that produce it, with no need to channel it to large treatment plants.

“Grey water can be easily treated and reused in households for irrigation and other purposes. Countries should consider grey water as a source of water that can bridge the gap between supply and demand,” he noted during the workshop.

Batayneh underscored that 98 per cent of the population in Jordan has access to clean drinking water, while 70 per cent are connected to the sewage network, highlighting that due to water scarcity in Jordan, households receive water once during a certain period, which can be a week or a month depending on the area.

“The water deficit in Jordan, caused by limited water resources and dwindling rainfall, necessitates strategies that exploit all available sources and techniques,” the secretary general said yesterday.

Concerns over dwindling groundwater reserves and overloaded or costly sewage treatment plants have generated interest in the reuse or recycling of grey water, also called “sullage”, both domestically and for large-scale irrigation, according to web sources.

However, concerns over potential health and environmental risks mean that many municipalities require intensive treatment systems for legal reuse of grey water, making it expensive for both commercial and residential use.

Grey water differs from water from toilets, which is designated as sewage or black water to indicate it contains human waste. Grey water makes up 70-90 per cent of residential wastewater, according to web sources.

During the four-day workshop, experts from Jordan and other Arab countries will discuss raising public awareness on the treatment and reuse of grey water, the latest technologies for treating grey water and monitoring its safety, and the environmental benefits of treating grey water.